Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has given another $700,000 to a pro-charter-school Indiana PAC, which has funneled a big chunk of the money to supporting Republican legislative candidates.
The PAC – called, without apparent irony, Hoosiers for Great Public Schools – reported only one contribution in its 2022 pre-primary campaign finance report, covering Jan. 1 to April 8: the one from Hastings, a California resident with a net worth estimated between $4 billion and $6 billion.
Hoosiers for Great Public Schools then gave $100,000 to another PAC, Hoosiers for Quality Education, which favors school choice in all its forms, including private school vouchers. Hoosiers for Quality Education has made over $600,000 in contributions this year, all to Republicans. Most has gone to GOP House candidates who are favored by caucus leaders and are in contested primaries.
Hoosiers for Quality Education, with ties to Betsy DeVos, the U.S. secretary of education in the Trump administration, didn’t just get money from Hoosiers for Great Public Schools. It got $425,000 this year from Walmart heir Jim Walton, along with several smaller donations.
Hastings also gave Hoosiers for Great Public Schools $700,000 in 2020. It also got $200,000 that year from John Arnold, a Texas billionaire. The group has never received a penny from an actual Hoosier.
But it does have a Hoosier connection. Bart Peterson, who heads the operation, was mayor of Indianapolis from 2000 to 2008. He was a Democrat then. I don’t know what he considers himself now, but he has become a primary source of out-of-state cash for Indiana Republicans.
Peterson told me in 2020 that he was “an unabashed supporter of charter schools” and was making the contributions to improve funding for the schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated. (His day job is president and CEO of Christel House International, which operates charter schools in Indianapolis and schools for underprivileged children around the world).
Whatever the motivation, the campaign contributions helped bolster the Republican supermajority in the Indiana General Assembly. In the 2022 legislative session, that supermajority: 1) repealed the law requiring Hoosiers to have a permit to carry a handgun; 2) made it much more difficult for poor people to be released from jail on bail; and 3) stoked phony outrage over schools teaching “critical race theory.”
Whether any of that is good for kids, Bart Peterson can decide.
What about charter schools, the cause that motivated the former mayor’s benevolence? The House did pass a bill to force public school districts to share revenue from property-tax referendums with local charter schools, but the Senate let the bill die without a hearing.
Hoosiers for Great Public Schools was sitting on a cash balance of $673,000 as of April 8, so we can expect it to be a player in the November 2022 general elections. Look for it to funnel more money to Republican legislative candidates and possibly to charter-friendly school board candidates.